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‘We take ‘love thy neighbor’ very seriously’: Charlotte church still meeting virtually due to pandemic.

Published: Sep. 22, 2021 at 9:49 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Starting Wednesday, houses of worship across Mecklenburg County are required to abide by the county’s COVID-19 mask mandate.

Earlier this month Mecklenburg County commissioners voted to extend the mandate to churches too. While some local religious leaders have already expressed their opinions on mask mandates, at least one church congregation won’t need to worry about the government order. Wedgewood Church in south Charlotte is still bringing its congregation together in a virtual setting.

Melba Evans, ministerial coordinator at Wedgewood, explained that her congregation has taken the pandemic very seriously. While members of the church community have been allowed to volunteer with the church food pantry, no in-person religious gatherings are being held. Evans said the congregation hasn’t gathered together for in-person worship since the beginning of the pandemic.

“We take ‘love thy neighbor’ very seriously at Wedgewood. That is what really guides Wedgewood Church,” explained Evans.

She said members of the congregation had hopes of returning to in-person worship services this fall, but fears over the continued spread of the coronavirus put those plans on hold.

“We were hearing from a lot of our members saying, ‘no we don’t want to go back, let’s just keep things going as they are’.”

Churches are allowed to hold in-person worship, but Evans said her congregation opted to play it safe rather than attempt to bring people together in masks.

“Even with everybody in masks, it still puts some people on edge about attending,” explained the ministerial coordinator.

While Mecklenburg County is now officially mandating masks for houses of worship, some churches have already been requiring attendees to wear masks. First Christian Church in Dilworth has been requiring masks since August.

“I don’t want our church to become a vector for spread of this terrible illness,” explained First Christian pastor Jolin McElroy.

However, at least one local religious leader, Penny Maxwell, a pastor at Freedom House Church, has stated her congregation will not be following a mask mandate. Maxwell posted a video on social media explaining that Freedom House church members would not be forced to wear masks.

“We are not gonna tell people that they’re gonna have to worship with their mouth and their face covered up. We’re gonna do business as usual and our lawyers are ready to go,” said Maxwell in the video.

Evans said she doesn’t understand why some churches are being defiant about mask mandates.

“I don’t understand how they profess ‘love thy neighbor’, but I don’t love my neighbor enough to put on a mask to protect my neighbor,” said Evans.

The Wedgewood Church leader said there have been benefits to virtual worship. She explained that the church has gained new members during the pandemic, and the virtual setting has allowed Wedgewood to host a variety of guest speakers from different locations.

Evans said her congregation will discuss the possibility of meeting in-person again in January.

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